27 – 6 – 2022 / 21:30h / Anticipada 8€ Taquilla 10€
Every working musician has had their life turned upside down by Covid-19. For The Shivas, who
had recently released a new LP and normally keep a rigorous touring schedule, it was a
particularly screeching halt. “We were about to go to SXSW, the following weekend was Treefort
in Boise, and then we were going to open for our friends’ band on tour in the US before going to
Europe,” Jared Molyneux remembers. Then everything just stopped.
They were faced with a dilemma. “It forced us to adapt or just quit,” Molyneux says. “The reality
is that shows are our job.”
In truth, live shows aren’t just The Shivas job: they are the band’s greatest love. Shivas shows
are bombastic, explosive and thoroughly communal live rock and roll experiences where
barriers between the performers and their audience seem to dissolve into the sweat and sound.
The stage—or the basement, or the living room—that’s The Shivas’ true element. It’s their
raison d’etre. It’s their religion.
The band’s live urgency may have been born in 2006, when the band’s young members—who
began booking West Coast tours while still in high school—waited without fanfare on sidewalks
or in parking lots, before being rushed onstage for their sets at 21-and-up clubs. Maybe it
developed a little later, as The Shivas blasted their way through Portland’s storied and
unsanctioned mid-aughts house show scene. Whatever the origin of their famously kinetic live
experience, it’s the show that keeps them coming back after over 1,000 performances spread
over 25 countries in 15 years.
In those 15 years, The Shivas have grown tight-knit as a group. Guitarist/singer Jared
Molyneux, bassist Eric Shanafelt and drummer/singer Kristin Leonard have all been with the
band since its earliest days; guitarist Jeff City, another high school friend, joined in 2017.
Together they’ve learned to thread a seemingly impossible needle: They’ve honed and tightened
their performances without sacrificing the element of surprise that makes each show special.
And despite touring and recording for most of their lives, they speak about their project with
humility, in the DIY vernacular of their Pacific Northwest upbringing. They talk up their own
favorite bands, play all-ages shows as much as possible, and bring a sort of blue-collar
humanism to the live performances they relish so much. “We just want to make people feel
good,” Molyneux says. “We want them to forget they have to work tomorrow.” Kristin Leonard
elaborates, “The live show is all about that feeling of catharsis—in ourselves and in everyone
who comes out. We’re creating this safe space where we can all let go. Where we can exhale.
And it feels really good when we are able to facilitate that.”
So when Covid hit, the band knew it was time for transformation. After a settling realization that
live music would be grounded for the foreseeable future, The Shivas booked significant studio
time with Cameron Spies, who also produced the 2019 Dark Thoughts LP. They also
transformed their lives: three of the band’s four members found work with a local nonprofit
serving unhoused Portland residents. They became engaged in protests and fundraisers for
social justice. They spent a whole summer actually living in Portland, settling into the city they
had always called home, but that sometimes felt like a temporary stop between tours.
“We got into a more community-minded headspace,” Leonard says. “And that did give us some
purpose. It felt cool to see everybody come together to stick up for what they believe in. It feels
like an incredibly formative last twelve months.”
The album that emerged from this new moment finds The Shivas reborn as a band that seems
seasoned and perfectly at home with itself. There is a calm, even a hopefulness, to Feels So
Good / Feels So Bad that sounds new. The Shivas didn’t write or record the album with a
particular theme in mind, but one seems to have emerged: where Dark Thoughts was about
confronting your demons with fearless self-examination, much of Feels So Good / Feels So Bad
is about what happens once you find that peace: how being honest with yourself changes your
relationships and your priorities. “I do think it’s about acceptance,” Leonard says. “There’s a
weird relaxation that comes with being at peace with things you can’t control or have regrets
Maybe that’s why the squealing, riff-laden break-up song opener, “Feels So Bad,” is such a
shock to the system. But it’s more of an exorcism than a melodrama: more a song about not
being able to do the thing you love (in this case, playing live shows) than splitting with a partner.
“It’s like part of you goes to sleep,” Leonard says.
As bandmates who are also in a long-term relationship, Molyneux and Leonard know that their
songs might be seen as glimpses into their personal lives, but their songwriting is rarely
autobiography. Leonard compares their process to something more akin to screenwriting.
“There’s bound to be some autobiographical material in there,” she says. “But the common
denominator is the exploration of universal feelings: ones that everyone experiences or can
relate to.” The goal is to use the music to drill down into something genuine and sincere, beyond
genre or stylistic affectation. That’s where The Shivas have arrived.
Whatever growth led the band to Feels So Good / Feels So Bad, plenty of their fascinations
remain. They’re still turning love songs into psychedelic, transcendent epics. “Tell Me That You
Love Me” subverts doo-wop extravegence and dabbles in Flamenco rhythms. “Rock Me Baby”
is a bubblegum anthem soaked in so much reverb that we might just be hearing it from the
stadium nosebleeds. “Sometimes” is almost impossibly huge, like a witchy outtake from the Brill
Those songs feel like logical expansions from a band that has always excelled at a timeless sort
of rock and roll that tinkers with and explodes elements from every era. But on the towering and
mournful “You Wanna Be My Man,” a slow-burning six-minute shoegaze prayer for a higher sort
of love, there is a level of emotional nuance that feels like something altogether revolutionary.
It’s there again in the stripped-down vulnerability of the album-closing elegy “Please Don’t Go.”
Yes, Feels So Good / Feels So Bad is an album about acceptance. Sometimes that acceptance
feels enlightened and sometimes it feels like the end result of a lot of kicking and screaming.
The Shivas have adapted in both of those ways. With new tours scheduled and a new album on
the way, they’re still hoping–like all of us–for a new era of vibrant, cathartic live music. The
lessons they learned from having their normal upended, though, have only helped them grow.